Williams' Texas Director
by Bob Bowman
the interest of an East Texas woman, American theater icon Tennessee
Williams might still be writing high school plays in a small town.
In the summer of 1942, theater director Margaret Virginia (Margo)
Jones, a lawyer's daughter from Livingston
in Polk County, was a drama instructor at the University of Texas
in Austin. Leaving New York
on her way back to Texas, agent Audrey Wood thrust a script into her
hands and suggested she read it.
On the train ride to Texas, Jones read the script, "Band of Angels"
by the then unknown Williams.
Fascinated by his talent, Jones turned her considerable drive to Williams'
writing career and, at the same time, began focusing on her new theater
venue in Dallas, Theater 47, where she produced a Williams play, "Summer
The Dallas production brought Broadway's attention to Williams and
led the blossoming playwright to coin the term "Texas Tornado," in
reference to Jones. The nickname was indicative of Jones' strong personality
and the fact that she was one of the first women to handle both the
producing and directing sides of theater productions.
In June, before "Summer and Smoke" opened in Dallas, Jones summoned
Williams to the city. Williams, however, did not want to go because
he believed that his "unconventional private life" would not be appreciated
in Dallas. Jones managed to persuaded him to come to Dallas only after
the play had closed.
When Jones signed the deal for "Summer and Smoke" in Williams' New
Orleans apartment, she only had the legal rights for the Dallas production.
To get the rights for the Broadway production, Jones offered Williams
several things no one else had. She promised "to protect him as would
no other producer," she said she had a "greater understanding" of
Williams work, and said Williams was "unable to deny my passion and
dedication for the play." He granted her the rights.
Jones directed two other Williams plays, which encouraged her work
in a production called "The Gentlemen Caller," which would eventually
become "The Glass Menagrie" in 1945. She served as assistant director
of the play when it came to Broadway, but she directed most of the
production when the director, Eddie Dowling, wanted to take an actor's
role in the play.
The success of Williams' play not only made him a household word in
America, but established Jones as a director on Broadway.
In his autobiography, Williams disclosed that he did not like the
work Margo Jones did on the Broadway production of "Summer and Smoke,"
but he never told her during her lifetime. The New York production
strained their friendship and even resulted in a legal battle over
royalties. The critics were divided over the play.
At the time of her death in 1955, Margo Jones and Tennessee Williams
had changed the face of theater not only in Texas, but nationally
Margo was buried in her hometown cemetery at Livingston
and on April 26 the Texas Historical Commission and Polk County Historical
Commission placed a state marker on her grave.
Things Historical -
May 29, 2006 Column
Published with permission
(Distributed by the East Texas Historical Association. Bob Bowman
of Lufkin is a past president of the Association and the author of
more than 30 books about East Texas.)
of Tennessee Williams
Williams' The Glass Menage...